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What the Heck is a Maker!?!

Y’all remember Mythbusters? Fading in and out of sleep to “How It’s Made”? Getting excited when a teacher asked you to help assemble something in the classroom?

No? Just me on that last one?

The past two decades there’s a new label to people who like to 3d Print, or turn a wrench; “Makers”.

From hobbyists working on restoring vintage cars to career cosplayers, people have been gathering in communal shops and spaces. (Often called Makerspaces) Around tools or food, discussing their projects, working on them in parallel or even *gasp* collaborating together to start businesses.

These “Makers” have varied stories and backgrounds, but one thing in common. Something frustrating them. From living un-customized lives to not knowing how to repair something. They found themselves moving towards learning new skills to improve their lot.

Credit: Makerworks, Ann Arbor

Makers and Nerds, One and the Same

Answering that calling, is what makes them Makers, and they share a lot with “Nerds” these days.
In fact, the overlap is undeniable.

At a surface level, even by it’s constituent members “Nerd Culture” can boil down to a few pedantic and harmful stereotypes. One being not having a hot take on who could beat Goku seemingly signaling a lack of brain activity.

Even there! Just there I did it! I boiled down the experience of being a nerd to having a take a side in a debate!

Adjacently you all have the friend who disappears weeks before con, spending long nights huffing glue, hunching over foam. You know the ones, who show up at the convention center in a Reinhardt armor build, a Power armor suit, or a Gundam. Maybe they decided to go with Genshin Impact or a tireless classic pulled from an ever-growing pulp-culture menagerie. It’s more in what they didn’t do that set them apart here. They didn’t grab something off the shelf, rip open the packaging and leave the costume “factory new”. They’ve *shudders* “Tinkered” with something.

They’re hunching over sewing machines, stitching yards and yards of fabric between sucking down espresso. Pounding back cold ones in between pounding hot iron on their anvil. Maybe You’re that friend. Spending long nights in an industrial shop eagerly awaiting the next time you get to drop jaws and get applause. They’re all Makers.

Makers are Nerds, we’re all part of the same amazing community. Now, I get to join a new one and write about the fantastic nerds I’ve met.

Starting at Lvl 1, and Spotlighting Makers

You’re all starting out at level 1 in knowing about Makers. As Baron said to me at PAX East:
“We all start at Level 1″
Maybe you have some insight into what I’m writing about, and in that case, I’m glad. I feel like more people could be made aware of what’s going on in the shops and garages of the world.

Every so often I want to point out and spotlight worthwhile Makers; Artists and Techniques that could open new possibilities. New methods to breathe life into your favored fandom, more machines that bring to life your machinations. Wicked ways to summon forth your waifu into our reality.

Okay. That last one is a stretch, but you get the idea. Things we love don’t have to get left on the page or screen. There are other ways of paying homage, than discussion of “Who wins a fight” to show appreciation for obsessions. One only needs to remember the “Shonen Fashion Video” from Mother’s Basement to get the idea.

Credit to @g0ffthew on X/Twitter for the banger video on what it means to add to Nerd-discourse

Not the First Maker, But a Maker Nonetheless

I’m Thomas Tusano, a Table Saw addict and an amateur CNC Enthusiast with a slight laser cutter problem. Haunting the halls of Michigan’s longest-running Makerspace with sawdusty clothes and aching muscles from pushing boards through a Sawstop. It’s what I love to do. Outside of glue-spotted fingers and a reckless abandonment of gloves when working with wood stain.
I wasn’t someone who was around for the start of the Maker Movement, but I am someone immediately drawn to it. And I am undeniably nerdy about A LOT of things… too much probably.

I’ve been spending the past 5 to 7 years in the TTRPG industry doing star-striking work.
The Lacquer on Chris Perkin’s Krampus Screen, to Millie Bobby Brown’s Dice, Jack Black’s Axe dice boxes, as well as Critical Role’s Exandria Unlimited Screens. The honor has been all mine to cut my teeth on high-profile jobs in various “Arthouses” of tabletop accessories. Until it wasn’t and I left for my own solo-leveling adventure.

Just a small sample of what I tend to put on display at my Local Game Stores or send out to awesome shops across the country

I’ve made scores of cutting boards, some going to the likes of Singer/Songwriter/Actor Nic Hamilton and The Amazing Innkeepers at the Makeshift Tavern in Australia. Not to mention the desk for The Bulletproofturtleman. (Yes it’s all one word, yes you have to say the whole thing, every time, and yes you put respect on it, only his close friends get to call him “Turt”) Not to mention a handful of keepsake boxes and a small army of trays, both mitered or CNC machined from butcher block I made.

Makers Means Community

Outside of that, I’m part of an Artist Discord called “The Spitballers” where we’ve focused on each making our collective skillset better and more considerate of working with other industry professionals. From 3D Modeling to Digital Art, as well as my chosen art of Fabrication.

Lastly and most importantly, as I previously mentioned, I’m part of Makerworks Ann Arbor, one of Michigan’s most senior and welcoming Makerspaces, and with that comes a responsibility to be a steward of my community, and spread the word of Making to the world, all while being an upstanding member of that community. I mean, I wouldn’t be embodying the “Culture of welcoming” that the community is known for if I were to gatekeep it right?

I don’t take the authority I’ve garnered in my community for granted, I have to be able to admit when I’m wrong, or when I don’t have the best approach, or that someone may still know better than I do. But what I do love is being able to lean over from my workbench and go “HEY! CHECK OUT WHAT THIS PERSON’S DOING!! IT’S AWESOME!!”

Makers Don’t Create In A Vacuum

I love talking about the accomplishments of others and what they mean for Making in general. Maybe someone cracks the affordability problem when it comes to sintering? (The 3d Printing technique that allows you to print with a metal powder or filament) Or Someone helped along the Backyard blacksmith revival with an affordable burner made from department store parts. (Looking at you King of Random)

My work is great, and you’re likely to see it interjected and covered here from time to time when I discuss techniques, and I do want to highlight my projects. But there are still hundreds, thousands, or even millions of other voices in this macro-micro-cosm of Making. Hopefully, I can introduce you to a few hundred or so of them.

For now, check out my Insta, Tiktok and socials for everything I’ve worked on, and let me know in the articles comments or by sending me some love on socials what you’d like to see written about as we embark on this crazy adventure.

Here’s to starting at Lvl 1.

-Thomas Tusano
Head Craftsperson
The Tusano Trading Co

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